30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Monday, March 28, 2016

C'mon... Give These a Chance

Don't hate what you don't understand.
-John Lennon

When I was a kid, one of my cousins tried to teach me to play chess.  I was so confused by which pieces moved in which direction that I quit without really giving the game a chance.  I had multiple opportunities to learn after that, but I always declined because that one day left a sour taste in my mouth.

Twenty-plus years later, one of my students offered to teach me and I almost said "no thanks".  But then I thought about how I'm always teaching him new things... the least I could do is let him return the favor.  In the end, I learned how to play chess and he had another person to play chess with.

Today's post isn't about chess.  But it's not about baseball cards either.

This morning I opened a very generous package from Ryan over at Japanese Sumo Wrestling Cards and Menko.

It included some of the coolest trading cards I've laid eyes on.  Sadly... I know very little about them... let alone the sport itself.  Now the eight year old Fuji might have thrown these cards to the side.  However... thankfully I've matured enough to appreciate things that I don't fully understand.

Now I'm sure some of the people who read my blog didn't bother clicking on this post, because it doesn't feature a baseball player.  And others are considering closing it right now, because they realize most of the cards Ryan sent are written in Japanese.  But I hope that at least a few of you will sit back and give these out of the ordinary trading cards a chance.  Who knows... you might just like what you see.

First up...

R-Series Menko Komosubi Watanohana

This is the type of card that caught my attention on Ryan's blog.  You don't need to be a fan of sumo wrestling to appreciate this vintage, die-cut, floating head piece of cardboard.  According to his blog, this card is from the 50's and "is comparable to the 1952 Topps set in terms of rarity, physical size, and star power."

Next up are four M-Series Menkos...

1951 M-Series Menko
#94520 Ozeki Kagamisato
#82521 Maegashi Nayoroiwa

#63540 Maegashi ra Onobori
#71940 Yokozuna Terukuni

These are similar in size to a tobacco card and according to Ryan is "the most significant set printed during this time."  In January 1953, Kagamisato reached the yokozuna rank, which is the highest ranking in the sport.

1950's Menko Rikidozan

Rikidozan was a popular Japanese professional wrestler who according to Wikipedia was "one of the most influential men in wrestling history."  Sadly he was murdered when he was only thirty-nine years old.

Here are a few more Menko discs from the 50's:

1950's Menko Cowboys

These three Menkos feature two famous American entertainers:  Gary Cooper and Bob Hope.  And the final four feature samurai warriors:

1950's Menko Samurai

I couldn't find anything on these or the cowboys series, but they're about the same size as a U.S. Silver Dollar.

Getting back to sumo wrestling cards, Ryan also included a pair of 2010 BBM cards:

Like Kagamisato, both of these guys have reached the rank of yokozuna.

The last of the vintage is definitely the coolest (which is saying a lot... since everything he sent was really cool):

1951 Kagame Rikishi Menko Unopened Packs

How often do you get the opportunity to see... let alone own sixty-five year old unopened packs?  I have no idea what the cards look like... but the wrappers are super awesome.  I debated on keeping one of these sealed and busting the other one just to say I did... but when push came to shove... I just couldn't do it.  Maybe one day.  But for now... these are going to be added to my unopened Japanese pack collection.

Are you still here?  If so... thank you for keeping an open mind and taking a few minutes out of your very busy schedules to check out some awesome sumo trading cards.

If you want to see or learn more about them, please head over to Ryan's blog:  Japanese Sumo Wrestling Cards and Menko.  He doesn't only focus on sumo trading cards.  Ryan also collects airport trading cards:

He wrote about this set earlier in the month on his blog.  If you travel a lot, then this might be the set for you.  Click here if you're interested in reading more about this unique set.

Well that's it for today.  Thank you Ryan for this awesome vintage Japanese trading card care package!  I'll be sending some more Laird cards for your PC in the near future.

Happy Monday and sayonara!


  1. How neat! It's kind of sad to think that some folks might not look at this post just because it doesn't contain anything baseball related, there loss I guess. I know nothing of Sumo, but I'm always interested in old cards on any subject matter. My first thought after looking at these is that they seem like they might be on the pricey side to collect.

    Also, I think it's pretty great that you were able to learn how to play chess from one of your students. It really is a wonderful game.

  2. Always refreshing to see something different on the blogosphere - the die-cuts are especially fascinating.

  3. I'm glad you like them. Always happy to share sumo stuff. If you promise to open one of the packs I'll replace it with another one! If anyone is interested in trading for some Japanese Menko, give me a holler. Fuji, I'll continue to help build in these sets for you! Also, thanks for all your do on your blog. Love reading it!!

  4. I'm intrigued by menko and I'll gladly read a post about them. I'm not sure that they "speak to me" enough to get some, but they're still cool.

    Leave those packs unopened! You can always get menko from that set, but how often are you going to come across packs?

    1. ...unless you can replace the unopened pack with another one... (I guess I took a while to write my comment, I missed the one above mine).

  5. Awesome cards. I wish there was sumo on US television. The current yokozuna, Hakuhō and Harumafuji are amazing athletes.

  6. I subscribe to TV Japan on Verizon FIOS to watch sumo. For me it's well worth it so I can also get other Japanese programming too. Thanks for the comments on the cards. Hakuho is amazing to watch for sure.

  7. Does Hakuhō have a "rookie card"? I'd be interested in collecting his cards.

    1. In the sumo card world we call them "debut cards" since all wrestler. Hakuho's debut card is #65 in the 2004 regular set. He was a juryo when he got his first card. Mid 2000 sets are very difficult to find!!

  8. Pretty cool! Fun to see different stuff like this.

  9. Menkos are pretty cool. I still regret not picking up vintage baseball menkos during my time in Japan.

  10. You type Menko, and all I think of is:


    And that first die cut card is amaze-balls!

  11. What a cool group of cards! Such a nice change of pace from the norm.

  12. jon - can't speak for other bloggers, but my non-baseball posts typically receive about half the number of views. yeah... this was years ago. i actually run the chess club at my school now (although... i'm still really bad at it).

    tony & angus - couldn't agree more. i enjoy a little variety when it comes to cardboard.

    ryan - thanks. i truly appreciate the kind words. your blog is awesome too. please let me know when you publish the updated version of your book. i'd love to buy a copy. as for that pack... i couldn't accept another 65 year old wax pack. that's way too much for me to accept. but... i promise you that i'll rip one open and share the results in the very near future.

    shlabotnik - i discovered menkos a few years ago and enjoy them mainly b/c they're so different from american sports cards. as for those packs... looks like i'll be opening one in the near future.

    ko rob - agree. just watched a match between those two guys on youtube. the outcome was a little lackluster, but interesting nonetheless. if you're interested in seeing other matches, there's a guy named jason's all-sumo channel with plenty of sumo coverage

    zippy - when i finally make it to japan a percentage of my luggage will be reserved for japanese trading cards

    jedi - oh man. haven't heard that jam in years.

    matthew & mr. hoyle - yeah... a very cool package indeed. had a blast holding such vintage and "different" cardboard.